mailbox: a shameful secret

Having memorialized my late father, I must confess the dread, sorry truth that I kept from him as he lay on his deathbed. It was too horrible for him to face.

The dark secret is revealed at last: the door to their mailbox had come ever so slightly off its hinge, leaving the mail just barely exposed to the elements. When I walked down the long driveway and out the private road to the mailbox to collect Mom and Dad’s mail, I brushed a faint dusting of snow (or, sometimes — oh, god! — droplets of rain!) from the pile of envelopes and magazines before carrying them back to the house.

I never told Dad that the mail sometimes got damp. Knowing that would have been too great a strain on his mind.*

Shortly after Dad’s death, my brother-in-law J, a cheerful, practical fellow, rolled up his sleeves, yanked the old mailbox out of place, and screwed into place the shiny new mailbox from the hardware store! Yay!

Yay!

Hey… yay, right?

Not, as it turns out, yay. At least, not according to my mother, whose disapproval of the new mailbox came out in sighs and gusts of faint dismay. The new mailbox, you see, was a bit larger than the old one, and it somehow violated the, I dunno, dimensional balance of the previous arrangement. And this was bad.

How bad?

In my mother’s words, “Thank God your father’s dead. He would have hated to see that.”

My mother, whose words were in earnest, was understandably puzzled when sister Gaoo and I dissolved into (equally understandable) frantic hoots of laughter. For months after (and still occasionally, three years later), our conversations were laced with the phrase “Thank God your father’s dead!”

*And if you think I’m kidding about that, you never knew Dad, never saw him get agitated about a scratch on a tableleg, or coasterless glasses, or spots on a book jacket. A mailbox door hanging ajar, and his infuriating inability to do anything about it, would have made him wring his hands in futile worry.

Scorn from beyond the grave

Only a scant few days of classes left, and I am a jangling bag of nerves because everything seems to be going so smoothly. This can only mean that there is some massive crucial project that I have utterly forgotten since it was first assigned in January. Right? Right.

E., my first partner and dear friend, used to say, “Elsa, if you were a super hero, you’d be Worst Case Scenario Girl!” (For the full effect, you should stand straight and proud with your shoulders thrown back and arms akimbo, and call it out in your most stentorian voice: “Making mountains out of molehills! Leaping to the most disastrous and farfetched of conclusions! It’s Worst Case Scenario Girl!” Really put the exclamation point in there. Good work.) He would tease and deride me right out of my twitching fits of fatalistic nerve-burn, threatening to get me tights and a cape and a crest emblazoned WCS.

E. doesn’t say this anymore, not because I have learned to tame the nightmare blood weasels that populate my brain manage daily stress, but because he died a few years ago. But his derision lives on. When I catch myself going right off the rails, imagining that a possible mishap is only the first step towards the Worst Case Scenario, I picture myself in full regalia, flying off into the sunset to inform someone of just how bad this could be, and I start to laugh. He left me a legacy of laughter and mockery, and I imagine that suits him fine, wherever he is, as the flames lick at his heels.

I have been using the image of WCS Girl for years to defuse my panicky bouts, and it is only this week that I noticed something rather obvious: Dude, you got sick and died. Worst Case Scenario Girl was right! In your face, dead loved one!

I miss you, honey. Thanks for getting me through finals. Again.